I sure love Diggity. And I love when his birthday comes around, because we were just starting to date (eight years ago!) right around the time of his birthday. And this time of year reminds me of that time in our lives and how lucky and blessed I felt to have met him. One of the things I've always loved most about him is how much he loves family - especially his kids. And rather than spend a whole lot of words talking about that, I just want you to look how happy he is in these pictures we took when all the kids (except our son-in-law D) were able to be at the house over Labor Day at the beginning of this month.
(Diggity isn't in the next two pictures, but you need to see them so you can see how cute these kids are. *grin*)
Happy birthday, sweetheart! Sure love you!
The first morning went really well. He woke up super excited to get out the door and was so excited to go to school. He even posed quickly and willingly for pictures as we were heading out.
Such a happy face!
Diggity shot a quick video before we headed out. I so appreciate that he always thinks to get video of stuff like this. I never remember...
The school is about 3/4 of a mile from our house, so we've been walking to and from school. He was thrilled to have dad along on his first day. I couldn't resist an iPhone shot as I was following behind them with L in the stroller.
No tears (from him or I) that morning. He walked in, found his seat and said, "Bye, guys!" We left quickly, but not before getting one more shot on the iPhone.
What a great kid.
The report at the end of the day was that he loved school, he had a lot of fun, he loved his teacher, the playground was too small, and he couldn't find anything to play out on the playground. He's been really excited both yesterday and today, and really seems to be taking to the schedule and the length of the day (it's a full day kindergarten) really, really well. I'm sure proud.
And since it was 98 degrees or so when we picked him up at the end of the day on Monday, we decided to go swimming for our after school tradition instead of baking cookies in a hot oven. *grin*
I've been thinking a lot about G-Man starting kindergarten. Ever since we went to registration on my birthday. Would I be excited for him? Would I cry? Would he cry? Would he like it? Would he want to go back the next day? What would I do all day without him home?
That was about the extent of my pondering on the start of school until a few back-to-school blog posts triggered a memory of something I wrote down at the Power of Moms retreat I attended this past spring. At the retreat, we were discussing the idea of being more deliberate mothers, and something Richard Eyre said really jumped out at me. He said that even if we think we don't have a family identity or economy or family traditions, that we actually do. Patterns and behaviors can spring up unbidden - so we can let those patterns become part of our family culture, or we can be deliberate about our family culture, family economy and our family traditions. And by doing so, we can shape our family units into the kind of communities we want them to be.
Suddenly, the start of school wasn't about how I was going to react, but what I could do to be proactive. I had the opportunity to craft some traditions that might be helpful in getting G-Man through this transition and would knit our family closer together in the process. I'd always admired Stephanie Nielson and her back to school feasts, and my friend Allison and her tradition of having fresh-baked cookies for her boys when they get home from school on the first day. So, I decided I should start there. A special dinner and a "cookie talk" after he got home from school.
(I'm kind of terrible about starting traditions, because I am not sure I want to COMMIT to keeping them going forward. But my new attitude is - if we like them, we keep them. If we don't like them, we lose them.)
And so, our night-before-school-starts-special-dinner was born!
I'd been wanting to have a family theme for quite some time, so this was the perfect opportunity. As Diggity and I discussed what we wanted G-Man to work on and do this year, I came up with the theme "Be a Builder." I made a little centerpiece using G-Man's old building blocks, and we talked about how he loved to build things with them when he was L's age. But now that he is older, there are other ways we can be a builder. We can build people up with our words, we can build strong bodies by eating right and exercising, we can build our brains by working hard at school. He understood, and he was excited about it. And he was thrilled to have a dinner filled with food that he picked.
After dinner, we gathered together and Diggity gave G-Man a special father's blessing to start the new school year. He was so excited to go to bed so he could wake up the next morning for school. He mentioned ways he was going to try and be a builder at school the next day, and how excited he was to go and learn and make new friends. It did my little mother-heart proud.
I think we found a tradition that we're going to keep.
What are your favorite back-to-school traditions? How did you spend "back-to-school eve"?
G-Man has been teaching me a great lesson this summer, even while I've been trying to teach him. Though G-Man really loves swimming in our pool, as of the beginning of the summer, we couldn't get G-Man to get his face wet, jump off the side, or even think of swimming without his "floatie."
It's been making me a little crazy. He's been taking classes at The Little Gym, and his favorite thing to do is to climb things and jump off of them. I have been telling him all summer (in truth, I've been telling him this since he was 2) that jumping off a balance beam is the same as jumping off the side of a pool and that he would love it.
No dice. He wasn't interested.
And that can be so frustrating as a parent. I just want him to LISTEN TO ME, trust that I KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT, and DO WHAT I SAY.
But sometimes, you just have to experience things to know.*
So, instead of forcing G-Man to try the different aspects of swimming (full disclosure - I actually tried to make him jump off the side of the pool and teach him to swim. Not so successful...), I decided I'd better find a way to shape his swimming experience differently. That, or I was going to end up with a 12 year old who still had to swim with a floatie while his little sister swam circles around him. (L has no fear in the pool. That's a different challenge for another day.)
We were lucky enough to hear about an amazing swimming teacher from my friend Natalie. This teacher lives around the corner from us and teaches in her backyard pool. And then we were lucky enough to get a few lessons scheduled with her. (Which took a while to get scheduled. Because she's that awesome.) There were some major tears during the first lesson, but after his teacher promised him several times that she would NEVER push his head under and would NEVER force him to do anything that he couldn't do, his trust in her and his confidence slowly started to grow.
The first few lessons were still filled with tears, but then all of a sudden...
He was still hesitant in our pool, but after swimming with some friends one afternoon at the end of June, he realized jumping off the side of the pool was fun. After our friends left, he kept jumping and quickly progressed from jumping off the small wall into the shallow end to this:
We just returned from a vacation to Utah and had another swimming lesson with his teacher. Monday afternoon, for the first time ever, he wanted to take his floatie off and swim without it.
I'm amazed by it. Watching kids figure things out was the greatest joy I had as a teacher, but it's on a whole new level watching my child figure something out. He earned that confidence. He earned the joy he feels when he jumps in the pool or tries a new trick. No one can take that away from him.
And as I'm facing down some challenges that I need to just push through, I'm watching and learning from my little swimming buddy.
Sure proud of you, G-Man.
* I swear, this is the most frustrating part of parenting. I understand that agency and choice are something I signed up for on this adventure here on the planet, and I understand that means other people have free will and the right to exercise it, but it's different watching someone you gave birth to exercise their free will. It's actually kind of awful to watch. I'm trying to get better about calmly guiding my little people instead of seizing control of their lives, but it's so hard...
Not sure about that, but definitely one year older. 38.
Not in a bad way. I've never worried about getting older - I am grateful for everything that has happened to me up to this point in my life that has led me to where I am now. And I certainly wouldn't wish myself back to my 20's. Not my best decade for a variety of reasons.
I just never pictured myself at this age.
I remember my mom turning 38. That's a weird thing to remember. To be aware of how old your parents are, and how old I was when she turned that age. My kids won't remember me turning 38.
Though, G-Man did make me feel old and sad today because of this:
Does he really have to go for the entire day? I love our afternoons together when L is asleep. We get to read and play and swim and work on our computers together.
Now I'm crying again.
I've been really weepy today.
This cheered me up though.
We're big Octonauts fans around here. More on that tomorrow.
The other thing that cheered me up? Facebook. You guys are the absolute best.
I'm trying to write blogs and the blogs aren't coming. So, I've been concentrating my energy in other places. It's been good. I'm recharging and feeling like I'm accomplishing stuff and I'm taking time to really spend time with and play with my kids. One of my very favorite photographers said this on Twitter a couple weeks ago, and again in a blog post tonight:
If I am being quiet online you know I am being loud somewhere else.
I love that.
Here's where I'm choosing to be loud in my life right now.
It feels good.
The Birth Day...
G-Man, You are a delight. I truly can't imagine a better son and oldest child than you. You wake up happy, you go to bed without giving us problems - I know we don't deserve to have it so easy, but we certainly don't take it for granted. You are one of the friendliest kids I've ever seen. To you, a new friend is just someone you haven't met yet. It's remarkable.
You love playing on the iPod, reading books, playing with your Imaginext guys, and watching TV. Some of your favorite shows right now are Super Hero Squad, The Octonauts, and Doc McStuffins, but you'll watch Baby Einstein with L too. You love playing with L, and with daddy. You love playing with me too, but you're usually good enough to me to let me get away with reading books with you instead of playing super heroes. But I'm going to work on playing super heroes more often.
I love that you have your own interests. And I'm really loving how much you enjoy taking pictures. You take pictures all the time with the iPod (even of complete strangers as they sleep next to you on airplanes - we'll work on our manners with that one), and you have even asked to take pictures with my big camera and have been helping me find locations and poses for some of your pictures like these:
You love your pre-K class and all of your friends, and your favorite things at school right now are your art projects and recess. Daddy and I wish you'd choose something to eat besides chicken nuggets and grilled cheese sandwiches, but we've heard that other children have grown to full adulthood on more limited diets, so we are hoping you'll come around and get some more variety in your diet at some point. You are a world-champion traveler, and the best helper a mom could ever have. L adores you, and so do the rest of us.
We are so glad you are in our family. And I'm so glad you're my little boy.
I've been thinking about this article by April Perry from Power of Moms all week. I've been reading it and re-reading it to remind me of the kind of person I'm striving to be. The article has been all over Facebook and Twitter over the past few days, but if you haven't read it, you should. You might like it too. :)
And if you haven't checked out The Power of Moms website, it's fantastic. So inspirational, and I'm really looking forward to performing at their upcoming retreat in Park City next month. If your hubby needs a good idea for a Mother's Day present, you can send him this link for the retreat! What a great way to kick off Mother's Day weekend!
P.S. Here's another favorite post of mine from April (which appears in Whitney's new book). I actually said, "Mommy is a person and needs to fix her own dinner" to my son tonight. I was kind of proud of myself. :)
P.P.S. The picture of the kids above has nothing to do with anything other than them being cute.
P.P.P.S I also want the record to show that I have a picture of myself with L. I look hideous, and she has her binkie in her mouth, but it's a start. :) (Note to self: squatting down in pictures is NOT flattering. Please don't do it in the future.)
Thanks, Allison for the pictures! And for letting us stay at your house, and eat your food, and for babysitting my kids, and for basically being awesome.
As much as I love Massachusetts, I was really missing Texas today as I was looking at these pictures we took near our home in Austin a couple weeks ago:
I come seeking your parenting advice. How does one get a talkative child to stop talking and actually eat?
And assuming you can get them to eat, how do you get them to try and love different foods? (though that's probably a question I need answered another day)
Mealtime is becoming the absolute bain of my existence, and I'm finding that I'm letting G-Man get away with eating the same rotation of foods just to ensure that he will EAT SOMETHING.
Tonight nearly did me in.
The kids and I went on a walk to see the bluebonnets in a park near our house and collect some rocks. When we got finished, we went to Target to replace toothbrushes now that everyone is on antibiotics and on the mend. Since we were at Target, and it's a mutual night, we met Diggity for dinner at Potbelly. Diggity and I love their salads, but G-Man is not a fan of their sandwiches. But he asked for a sandwich and then once he had it, proceeded not to eat it.
In the past, I've let him eat a couple bites and fill up on other things, but the child is almost 5 and needs to learn to eat, so tonight, I dug my heels in. And he dug right back. I don't think I've ever seen a child that needs to chew his food so thoroughly. Threats, ignoring, cajoling...pretty much everything but straight up bribery (which I've also done in the past). Diggity finally had to leave for mutual, and we stayed another 40 minutes until that child finished half of his sandwich, bringing our total time in the restaurant to 70 minutes or so. For one half of a sandwich.
Here's how L felt about it:
I concur, sister.
Though I've been assured many times that this situation will change, and I know that when he's a teenager and I can't keep food in the house I may look back with fondness at this time, I can't help but wonder...what can I do? What have you done?
G-Man has a new thing - wishing flowers.
He loves them.
Every time he sees them, he wants to stop and make a wish.
And the cutest part?
He tells the flower his wish in a whisper before he blows the seeds away.
Sometimes I get to hear his wishes, though I don't think he wished for super-hero strength enough to lift the Golden Gate bridge, it appears that was granted.
I don't have the heart to tell him his special flowers are just weeds.
What are you wishing for this week?
...but almost every day...
...I look at this little face...
...and I just want to cry because she's getting so old so quickly.
And I can't even talk about how old this little person is getting.
I may need to lock myself in my room and cry this fall when he starts Kindergarten.
We started swimming lessons yesterday. I've got a 14 month old that is fearless around the water and an almost 5 year old that cries in terror when his face gets wet in the bathtub. Both of them need the lessons for different reasons.
I've been mentally preparing G-Man for swimming lessons for a couple weeks. He talks a lot about how he's scared to go in the water. I talk a lot about how he needs to do it anyway (Feel the fear and do it anyway! Robisons can do hard things!). But the other day, I felt I needed to say something different. We talked about how when he was feeling afraid, he needed to remember that I wouldn't put him in a situation where he was in danger of getting hurt. And that when he felt afraid, he needed to listen to his swimming teacher and do exactly what she says. That he really needed to believe in her - because like me, she wasn't going to put him in a situation where he was in danger of getting hurt. I told him that if he could count on her and trust her, that he didn't need to feel afraid.
And as he neared the end of the swimming lesson where everyone jumps in the pool to the teacher and swims across the pool, the tears started coming. (I was trying really hard not to watch too closely so he would pay attention to his teacher.) He looked terrified. But he figured out a way to jump in that made him feel comfortable, and he swam with his teacher's help - crying all the way.
As we walked to the locker room, I told him I was proud of him. That I was so grateful to his teacher for helping him learn how to take care of himself and be safe in the pool. He grinned and said, "I know! I believed that she would help me, and she did! And I was only a little bit afraid at first."
Tonight, I was upset about something that happened earlier in the day. Something I have no control over. Something that as I watch it develop makes me afraid for the success of some of the projects I've been working on. And frustrated because there is nothing I can do about it.
Thank goodness for smart husbands who call you on the phone just when you need them to. He understood and listened to my frustration. He made me feel better about the projects I've been working on, since they are things I really feel like I'm supposed to be working on. And as I listened to him calm my fears, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for him and the partner he is and the role he plays in my life and in our family.
And with that, the fear was gone.
Gratitude and fear can't co-exist. And I'm so grateful for that reminder and that I have a new tool for moving through fear in my toolbox of life. When the unknown and the out of control start to press down on me, I'm going to find something to be grateful for and move through the fear to the place that I can walk forward in faith.
How about you? What tools do you use to move through moments of fear?
G-Man: "Mom? Can I have the iPod?"
Me: "Not right now. Sorry, buddy."
G-Man: "Why? I really want the iPod!"
Me: "I know you do. I'm sorry. But you are on your way to school, and we don't have a long way to drive, and it's not a good time for the iPod."
Silence from the backseat.
G-Man: "Mom - I'm mad at you."
Me: "Sorry to hear that."
G-Man: "I'm mad at you because you should give me what I want when I want it. It's not nice. I should get to do what I want."
Now, at this point in the conversation, I usually change the subject, but for some reason, I started down a different conversational path...
Me: "Really? You think you should always get to do what you want?"
Me: "Okay. So, if you wanted to eat candy all day long, I should let you do that? Even though it makes your tummy hurt? Or, last year when we were working on going potty in the toilet - you really wanted to keep wearing diapers and didn't want to learn to go to the bathroom and wear big boy underwear. Should I have let you keep going potty in your diapers? Just because that's what you wanted to do?"
G-Man: "No, mom! That's silly!"
Me: "That's right. And it's my job as your mommy to help you learn that there things that you may not want to do at first, but that are better for you when you do them. Just because we always want to do something, doesn't mean it's good for us."
And as I kept talking and giving him examples, it was like I was talking to myself. Just because I want to do something, doesn't mean I should just be able to do it. As I've lamented my spotty self-discipline in certain areas, I don't think I've ever thought about this as an analogy before.
Just because I want to sleep late every morning, is that a good choice for me?
Just because I really like donuts and I want to eat them every single day, should I?
Nope, and nope.
As I said to G-Man, a parent is someone who helps you learn things that help you become a better person. Things that may not be fun or that take time to learn or that you don't want to do at first. That's what the commandments are for. That's why we have these bodies to take care of and to train - to teach us how to discipline ourselves and overcome our natural tendencies. So many examples from my own life of things I need to do to improve kept flashing through my brain as I was talking to my four year old.
And as I finished up after talking through all these realizations, I looked in the rear view mirror and said, "Does that makes sense, buddy?"
"Mom, I stopped listening."
That's okay, buddy. I think I was having the conversation for my own benefit anyway.
(The famous Texas Bluebonnets!) Or so we hear. We had such a dry spring last year, we didn't see many of them. We're hoping with the rain we've had, we'll see some this spring. We were lucky enough to be visiting Austin the last time they really bloomed, but you can see by this picture how long ago that was...
(I tell him every day that he needs to stop growing up, but he's not listening.)
(And I agree, it's crazy to be mentioning spring on February 27, but we had a couple days that were in the 80s last week. What a crazy "winter!")
Do any of you locals know of any great bluebonnet spots that might be safe for photos? I'm not so interested in pulling off the shoulder on a highway with my crazy, laughs-in-the-face-of-danger, walking 14 month old...
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I know there is a blog series that a lot of bloggers join in on called "Wordless Wednesday" where they just post pictures and let them do the talking, but I really like words. Instead, I was going to call this post "Almost Wordless Wednesday," but that wasn't catchy at all. So, I gave up. Enjoy our Valentine's Day fun. In photos. Courtesy of my iPhone. The letter bag with treats and a card inside -
Grandpa Toad's cookies waiting for the kids -
He's a fan of Valentine's Day. Couldn't stop talking about how awesome it is all day.
She's not totally sure about it yet.
Writing classmates' names on the valentines -
If she understood the goodness she had in front of her, she would not be making that face. (she subsequently destroyed the entire cookie when my back was turned helping G-Man with something)
We built a Valentine's Day fort. Which is no different than an ordinary fort - you just build it on Valentine's Day.
And we finished the day with a gourmet dinner at Sonic after delivering valentines to some of G-Man's friends.
It was a good day, but we sure missed Diggity. We love you!
Our assignment this week was to plan a shoot around something that inspired us. And Brooke talks a lot about finding inspiration in the everyday. So, I planned a shoot around this book:
G-Man and I read this book a lot. I'm pretty sure we both have it memorized. And both Diggity and I play super heroes with G-Man on a daily basis. Since it's so much a part of our everyday, it seemed the perfect thing to plan a shoot around.
But we needed some other super heroes to join Captain America, so I recruited Superman and Spiderman to join us.
Ready to fight the bad guys! (And G-Man is doing a perfect Captain America pose from his page in the book. He studied it before we went to shoot. What a guy.)
Off to save the day!
And their secret identities are finally revealed:
I've added a few more in the lightbox gallery below, if you'd like to take a peek! Enjoy!
Whenever anyone asks me how I learned about photography, or what they should do to learn more about photography, my answer is always the same - take a class. I took an online portrait class when G-Man was no longer interested in holding still so I could practice on him, and it's one of the best things I ever did. Workshops are great, but online courses allow you access to great teachers who you may not get to work with otherwise. I've taken a couple other online classes since, and I'm currently taking a class that I'm just loving so far.
I've been following our teacher, Brooke Snow, online for a little while now. I came across her website through the ShowIT Sites website, saw she was a Utah photographer, and stuck around because I was really drawn to her style. (And as we've become e-mail friends, it's kind of shocking how much we have in common as musician/photographers!) As I'm kicking off my year on sabbatical, I thought her class would be a great thing to keep me shooting, and to push me creatively.
I was right.
Our first assignment involved preparation - planning a detailed shoot, and choosing a location and using all the possible spots you can in that location.
Well, I've been planning a detailed shoot for the past week - L's first birthday/cake smash shoot.
(Which I shot today. It turned out really well. I'll show you soon.)
But, I shot that stuff in the studio, and we're focusing on natural light for this class.
So, I decided to focus instead on the location portion of the assignment.
Location selection is tough. I try to encourage clients to choose a place that means something to them - someplace they've spent time together as a family, and someplace they are comfortable being themselves. I personally think one of the best places to accomplish this is in the client's home. But whenever I suggest it, clients aren't usually interested in that. Which is fine, but I always suggest it. I think clients don't take me up on the idea because they can't imagine we can find any spots in their home that would photograph well. They only see their piles of paper scattered around on counters and the toys in the backyard.
Well, I decided to put myself to the test and shoot G-Man in our own backyard.
Our backyard, while nice, is not super large or green right now. We have a pool that takes up a lot of space, and there are lots of other visual distractions around. Brooke challenged us to "exhaust the location" as we did this homework assignment, and it was a bit of a challenge at first until I got going.
Here are my three favorites I'm submitting for my homework:
And here are a few more if you have time - including a couple from the studio showing off G-Man's "payment" for helping me with so many photos today. (We did Valentine's Day photos in addition to these and L's photos. I pushed his 4 1/2 year old patience right to the limit...)
(They're the Captain America brothers, if you were wondering...)
Little L had her first official haircut today. I have given her a couple little trims, but her hair was getting a little crazy on the sides and I knew it was getting beyond my abilities. So, off to the kids haircut place we went!
She was happy when we started, but deteriorated as the haircut went on. By the time we got back to the car, her mood looked a little bit more like this:
She cheered up later. Isn't that haircut cute!?!
No haircut tears from this guy, in fact, he was so proud of himself because he picked out his movie and sat through his haircut with no help or reminders from me. And since haircut=lollipop, it's all smiles from G-Man.
I got a much overdue haircut today too. Love a haircut. What is it about a haircut that makes the day so much better? Is it the haircut itself or the fact that someone else fixes your hair for you?
And, we were able to try a new burger place called Hopdoddy with the BEST MILKSHAKE I'VE EVER HAD. (Sea Salt & Caramel. YUMMMM. So good, I may not even try the other flavor I wanted to try - Nutella & Pretzel)
I hope your weekend is full of happy things like haircuts and milkshakes!